How tech changes will impact season

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/02/2020
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

The new Supercars season brings with it a handful of key technical changes that will play varying roles in the outcome of the championship.

Firstly, the aerodynamic packages on both the Ford Mustang and Holden Commodore have been tweaked following two VCAT tests over the summer.

That testing had a dual purpose; to reduce the level of downforce to improve racing, and ensure the two marques are as evenly matched as possible.

For the first time, each team has been given comprehensive data about the aerodynamic profile of their car – information previously only supplied to the homologation team.

Meanwhile, the category has adopted a control shock absorber under a deal with Pedders and Supashock, which also promises to level the playing field between teams.

Previously there were three different brands to choose from and huge scope for altering and developing internals.

Not only are the new dampers a control item, they will be sealed, with only basic bump and rebound adjustment permitted.

Elsewhere, a cost-saving push has trimmed around 15bhp out of each engine, coinciding with a move to limit the number of engine rebuilds per season.

Tyre rules have also been overhauled; with the traditional used tyre banks for practice sessions replaced by a bigger allocation of new rubber.

What will it all mean when the season kicks off?

We spoke to Fox Sports' Supercars experts Mark Larkham, Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes to find out.

LARKHAM: I'm really excited about the technical changes that have happened. 

For the first time in our history, the fact that every team up and down pitlane will have an aero map [data to help them understand the car’s aerodynamic properties] for their car is pretty cool. 

A lot of the nous and good work we saw from Ludo [Lacroix] and Scotty [McLaughlin] last year… we pointed out on the telecast you could fit Skaifey's wallet in the gap between the front guard and the tyre one week, and the next week it was the rear!

They were really working the aero on those cars. The fact that everyone understands [the aero package] now is good. 

The 10 percent aero drop, I'm not sure how much that's going to do. But the really good news is that we're on the right path there, we've started that journey and that's a positive thing.

I'm really excited about the difference the control shock might have on the category. It's not going to give you all of the answers. It's still tuneable to a degree.

But the ability to put weird curves and do all sorts of digressive stuff and weird and wacky rebound curves [is gone].

If you think about the impact of a shock absorber, combined with a twin spring [which was banned ahead of 2019] – from the moment you go for the brake pedal, to turn-in, and getting off the corner – with all of the different variables to tune it for different places in the corner for high and low speed, that's all gone. That level of tuneablity is gone. 

Suddenly you think about Chaz Mostert in a WAU [Walkinshaw Andretti United] car, and the Tickford guys, and Charlie Schwerkolt's guys... this might just help them bridge that gap. 

The good guys are in the window, and they'll stay there. But it's the ones that were falling out of the window that won't be able to fall out of the window anymore.

You're still going to cock up, of course you will, but it's much more linear than it's ever been. 

I've been in the shock department at every team in the country, and I'll tell you there's some good ones. The disparity between them is huge, so to close that gap I think is a good thing. 

Even from a psychological point of view, a lot of it is perception.

If you're trying to do an elite sporting performance – doesn't matter what sport, or if you're an engineer or a driver or whatever – if the perception is that you haven't got what those guys up there have got... 

This will energise everyone. 'I'm now in the game, I can do this. I can run around behind Jamie [Whincup], and what he's got, I've got too.' 

That's a pretty cool thing for a race driver to know.

LOWNDES: Now I've seen the cars and driven the cars [at the BP Ultimate SuperTest], they move around a lot more.

There's no doubt the aero reduction has given teams more to think about. I know Shane [van Gisbergen] worked a lot on that during the test, just to understand the aero platform.

The shock absorber side of it, I've got to say the transition from the early morning [at the test], when we ran on the Sachs shock, to the [control] Supashock... I was surprised with the comments from Shane and Jamie, who did the back-to-back. They actually didn't feel a big difference. 

But again, they've had the opportunity to dyno between the control shock and what we had before.

The adjustability with the Supashock still allows you to get back to a similar platform. So the drivers commented that there was a difference, but not as great a difference as expected. And that's a good thing. 

For me the platform coming into this season is more balanced than what we saw last year. I think the people in Supercars involved in the technical side have done a fantastic job with the aero side of things. 

It's hard to go off testing times, but Chaz Mostert was up there at times, Scotty Pye was up there, so I think it's balanced it out between the heavyweights and the other end of pitlane.

SKAIFE: It does create a more level playing field. And any time we do that, it makes for better racing.

There will be times when some of those smaller teams end up halfway there.

You talk about the [set-up] window, there will be times when you don't move it very much and you'll be going 'gee my car's alright!'. 

There will be a lot of work on anti-roll bar technology, and there will be a lot of work on geometry to go with what we just spoke about.

Like always, the good teams will be more across it, but it will definitely level the playing field.

Thirty to 40 kilograms of downforce [less than 2019] is still a fair chunk as well.

I was really critical of the aero level we had last year, I think that it hurt the racing quality, it hurt the tyre degradation, it hurt the ability the pass. 

I think the tyre bank is the massive one this year. It makes total sense to go from some teams having 250 [used] tyres and coming back to 40. 

You'll get a form guide each weekend [from practice]. For our fans, that form guide on a Friday afternoon is so powerful.

You have to have the headline act on a Saturday morning for the newspaper to say who was fastest. It's a big part of the entertainment package.

I like the engine changes that have been made as well.

I think that will drag the cost back a bit. That should have been done when we did Car of the Future and we've been working on that forever. 

There are a lot of smaller changes that bode really well.

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